New Covid variants likely and ‘could be worse’ than Omicron, say government advisers


he government’s top public health advisers have warned new Covid-19 variants are likely in the future and they “could be more severe” than Omicron.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Professor Sir Chris Whitty said he expected new variants to emerge in the future, some of which could cause “significant problems”.

Sir Patrick Vallance told the public that the pandemic was far from over and said, “we expect there to be more variants and they could be more severe”.

The government’s chief scientific adviser said coronavirus will continue to evolve over the next few years, adding there was no guarantee the next variant would have as reduced severity as the Omicron variant.

“As it evolves, what it’s trying to do is transmit more readily,” Sir Patrick said.

He added that protecting the most vulnerable people in society was absolutely crucial, and said the next year or more was a period of “quite unstable evolution”.

Meanwhile, Sir Chris said subsequent winters could also see a combination of Covid, flu and other respiratory problems, leading to public health experts expecting winters to “be tricky” even without new variants.

He stressed that people are being advised to continue to self-isolate if they have Covid-19, similar to public health advice about other illnesses such as norovirus.

He also said wearing face masks in crowded public places “remains sensible and pragmatic advice” which he implored everyone to continue to follow, as we moved into the next stage of the pandemic.

Earlier on Monday, the prime minister unveiled his ‘living with Covid’ plan in the House of Commons.

He also expressed concern about new variants during his address to MPs, saying there may be “significant resurgences” in the future.


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